EAC caught unawares with the Ebola outbreak in Uganda

Thursday June 13 2019

Health workers carry out the body of a patient

Health workers carry out the body of a patient with unconfirmed Ebola virus in Mangina, near Beni, in the North Kivu province, on August 22, 2018. A single case has been reported in Uganda. PHOTO | JOHN WESSELS | AFP 

By Zephania Ubwani @TheCitizenTz news@tz.nationmedia.com

Arusha. Senior officials at the East African Community (EAC) remained silent yesterday on the reported outbreak of the deadly Ebola in Uganda.

The regional secretariat was apparently caught unawares as it assured on Tuesday that no Ebola case had neither been detected nor any death reported in the region.

The announcement was made by the EAC deputy secretary general Christophe Bazivamo during the Cross Border Field Simulation Exercise against the infectious diseases such as Ebola at the Namanga border town.

"We have been able to successfully prevent the spreading of Ebola from the DR Congo into the EAC" he said during the event which attracted officials and experts from across the region.

He affirmed;"I would like to think that we are not only lucky (the disease could not spill into the EA region) but we were also prepared". However, the region woke up yesterday to the grim news of a death caused by the hemorrhagic Ebola in western Uganda near the border with the DRC.

The five year old boy who died had earlier tested positive to Ebola and is reported to have crossed into Uganda from the vast neighbouring country.

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EAC officials reached by The Citizen on the issue declined to comment, maintaining that it was too early to discuss the death as key experts were still overseeing the four-day simulation exercise at the Namanga.

The field simulation exercise (FSX) aims to assess preparedness and response capacities of the region in major outbreaks of infectious diseases of public health concern.

As of last week, more than 2,030 people had been infected and more than 1,360 had died in DRC, making it the largest outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease the world has ever seen.

"We will continuously need to test and improve our status of preparedness", Mr. Bazivamo said, noting that laboratory capacity was being enhanced to diagnose highly pathogenic organisms.

The World Health Organization (WHO) country representative to Tanzania Dr. Tigest Ketsela Mngestu warned on the socio-economic consequences of the disease.

"The region needs to be better prepared by operationalization of national and regional contigency plans involving all the sectors", he said. Since 2018, the EAC region has experienced a number of cross border epidemics most of which affect both humans and animals. These include, among others, the hemorrhagic Ebola, Marburg, Crimean Kongo and Rift Valley fevers, Cholera, Polio, Rabies and Plague.